Thursday, 25 February 2010

Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before

Do you ever find yourself nodding along to some anecdote some anodyne friend you’ve agreed to meet with coffee with after a brief separation is relating whilst secretly thinking “I know how this ends” or “I know the punchline but I’ll laugh anyway” or “stfu already”.

Yet we don’t interrupt because in doing so we would have to admit that although the friendship has been neglected of late, the e-friendship one of espionage has been anything but during the 9-5 you pretend to be working. And with the ability to monitor so many acquaintances at once, it becomes difficult to remember what stories are attributed to whom. You hear the beginning of a spiel and you just know you’ve seen something similar – thoughts spun out on screen before they’ve been audibly aired – but who? And why? And where? Twitter? Facebook? Livepresspot? Sometimes it can be so disconcerting you begin to question your mental stability. Did you daydream this happening? Is it déjà vu which is causing you to second guess the next words to splutter out of you chum’s caffeine-fuelled beak?

Sometimes – and I’m not saying I’m innocent of this – you may find yourself quoting your own catchy status updates word-for-word. Well, you put so much effort into the original syntax, knowing it’ll be viewed by a jury of at least 200+ friends, so why not test how it trips off the tongue? The satisfaction of knowing you’re delivering a good soundbite (it did accrue at least half a dozen ‘likes’ afterall) is only impaired by the knowledge that the recipient may have heard it all before (if the cyberstalking is mutual).

Microblogging has many benefits and feeding the trend for subconscious plagiarism (“I swear Wikipedia didn’t write the bulk of my essay”) is apparently one of them. And I probably nabbed that line too.


I recently got into the habit of checking my feeds as soon as my alarm went off in the morning, ever since having an internet-enabled phone whose novelty is yet to wear off three months of obsessively logging in down the line. I found the rage incited by reading ridiculous tweets and pick ‘n’ mix updates was enough to force me out of bed and stomp (have you tried stomping as soon as you get out of bed and are still suffering from jelly legs? Dudley Moore’s Arthur would be jealous of my performances) indignantly round the house and set me up for a day enduring idiocy better than force-feeding myself coffee and cereal bars ever would. But now I’ve experimented by taking full advantage of Facebook’s ‘Hide’ function. The polite way of de-friending because you’ve come to the conclusion that although you can’t say there’s enough justice in completely removing your playground pal Tim “Carlsberg Champ” Watson his desire to post picture of his daughter’s toilet training and writing ‘lik dis’ is encouraging your desire to set fire to the monitor and throw it out the window to blossom. Or post proud pictures of your own successful toilet training. Beat that, little K-Lee Vikki Gaga Watson!

So no longer do I rely on that old familiar surge of fury converted to energy to force myself out of slumber and I admittedly miss my old ‘friend’. He did end every sentence with ‘LOL’ afterall, and you can’t say that of Andrew Marr.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Long & Winding Road

Yesterday, as I’m sure you are all aware (and those of you possessing male genitalia who failed to notice will doubtlessly and painfully have been made to realise by now) was Valentine’s Day. My TLA and I had already celebrated the fact by watching other people undress at The Farmhouse’s burlesque night, what with having had enough of the sight of each other naked.

On the actual VD itself we wondered what non-clichéd things we could do. We considered the newly opened bowling alley during the day but balked at the prices and intimacy of the lanes. I wasn’t keen on chavette’s lolling at my dress sense which had turned out somewhat adventurous in my half-awakened state that morning (imagine traffic lights humping at Woodstock) and my inability to roll anything that isn’t a fag. So we opted instead for quality alone time along with about a hundred others at the Gulbenkian Cinema.

The film we chose (over predictably placed rom-com ‘It’s Complicated’) was post-apocalyptic drama The Road, with attention turned for once not on re-building the planet but on a father’s (Viggo Mortensen) decline as he struggles to protect his son from dangers such as cannibals, falling trees, starvation and shopping trolleys with gammy wheels. During the journey we glimpse snatches of LBA (not Little Big Adventure, the cute but irritating game featuring an impossible to control peanut-headed ninja, but Life Before Apocalypse) with disinterested and improbably attractive wife & mother (Charlize Theron), who decides she’s had enough of waiting to be crushed by a tree and buggers off into the forest one day, perhaps to speed up the process.

The depictions of those still wandering the dreary, colour-drained earth are genuinely disturbing, divided into the hunters and the hunted. Or the Good Guys and the Bad Guys for the sake of slack-jawed Boy’s purposes. You feel for father and son as every day is a struggle for food and survival. Even sugar-conscious parents must inwardly cheer when Father manages to extract a can of coke from a rusting vending machine. The Bad Guys could easily have been portrayed as futuristic Mad Max-ers with bionic limbs and questionable mullets but by avoiding these clichés director John Hillcoat portrays a far more realistic, and therefore more chilling, vision of the not-too-distant future.

Emerging from the Gulb and the harrowing scenes we had witnessed therein, we embarked on a similar journey to Father & Boy, with London Road Estate being our goal and fraught with just as much danger, I’d guess. My whining about the cold replacing the Boy’s cries of “Papa! Papa! Come look at my reflection!”, Joe having to carry the bulk of the load (cinema kiosk leftovers) and fighting off hungry passers-by (i.e. drunk revellers in search of Kebab-ery). I am pleased to conclude that our bond remains intact my the process and we didn’t resort to eating people to get to our final destination.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

I've Got 21 Hours To Go

Think tank agrees with me on my last post.

So working fewer hours could be better for the planet and our personalities. I have certainly found the shift from full-time to part-time has made me happier when I'm in my workplace because I'm not resenting the stapler and photocopier for so much time spent in their presence. I'm not frantically cramming leisure time into two measly days a week.

The problem with this professed left-wing and idealistic suggestion for how to structure our lives is that some berks will always ruin it for the rest of us by heroically putting in as many hours as they can on meagre salaries because they're under the impression that it'll progress their careers and they'll get rewards such as a fourth wall and their own key to the stationery cupboard. Scabs.

Shame they're so often in the right.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bliss Tryst

I strode past my former den of snakebite-fuelled sexual tension and realm of all that is Metal (aka The Beercart) today to enter an establishment both its polar and linear opposite – a recruitment agency. Bear with me, I can already tell you know that this description is not going to be about how useful, kind and helpful its employees were.

Actually, the lovely bouncy girl that took my ID off me to be photocopied was very sweet (with a name like ‘Bliss Pidduck’ how can you be anything but?) and remembered me from the phone call a few days ago when I first had the notion more work + more money make Karen go happy happy joy joy. I perched on the luxurious leather sofa that probably came from the DFS January sale (incidentally, does anyone buy sofas when they’re not in a sale?) and the delightful Bliss asked me what kind of work was it I was looking for exactly. I resisted the urge to tell her all my hopes, dreams and fears and succinctly responded, “Admin...part time...around 30 hours?” “Oh, of course, that was it!” beam, beam...so far I’m loving the personal touch and the pretence of remembering who I am. The country is still in a recession despite what people quoting their 0.000001 percentages may say and I’m sure they’re still fielding calls from hundreds of desperados daily.

Turning her back to me briefly to do whatever needed doing to the copier, she enquired “and why is it you’re only looking for part time?”

I shot a glance to the typist eavesdropping in the corner and stammered something about writing in my spare time. Bounding back with a flourish she cried, “oh yes, couldn’t remember!” That’s probably because we hadn’t actually discussed it before. Over the phone my words were taken at face value, whereas sitting on this sofa (or rather, sinking into) in front of her she probably correctly guesses that I’m not on the cusp of retirement and have things to do in my spare time like spending time with the grandkids and going on cruises, nor do I have the tell-tale baby vom down my top which would indicate motherhood, and unfortunately I’m not that fresh faced anymore to pass for a student.

So what’s my excuse?

I enjoy writing. I enjoy having four day weekends in which to complete housework and do food shopping and see my boyfriend and parents and friends without feeling the stress of cramming it all in. The balance in my life has switched from concentrating my energy into a full time job in which I had no stimulation yet the boredom of which was simultaneously so draining it negatively affected my relationships with loved ones, to a healthy mixture of interesting, demanding work and ample time to make amends for past crankiness. I have just escaped from working full time for over two or so years and although it may not sound much to some it was precisely enough to show me what I didn’t want the rest of my life to be like. At one point I was living at my Dad’s – in my early twenties, (which I understand is becoming the norm but to me it pricked of failure, I was meant to be self-sufficient by that age; I had been brought up hearing tales of how my Mum had to make her own way at the age of 16 and had her own flat and job fairly sharpish after receiving this news). I was commuting for an hour each way on a bus shying away from vicious, slutty schoolchildren and the guys eyeing them up, the drooling cat lady, the professional who brought his electric razor with him and would think nothing of having a quick trim whilst standing in the aisle. I had to spend parts of my early paycheques clobbering together smart work attire to sit there out of the public eye for 95% of the time (source: Recession Percentage Person) and when I moved out and rented privately I had to suck on the sad fact that my partner on benefits wielded more spending power than I, after taking into account my outgoings on necessities.

I think the reason I keep getting peeved at these incredulous “part time?!!!” enquiries is because I do feel a lot of guilt for not wanting to devote so much time and energy to a full time job. I think this was because I was brought up to believe a job wasn’t a job unless you hated it, but you did it anyway, no questions asked. I’m trying to convince myself these days to more firmly believe in the adage that insists once you’ve found the job you love, you won’t label it “work” or “job” because it won’t seem like either of those terms if you’re enjoying it.

At the moment I don’t have kiddiewinks, I don’t have a mortgage to pay off, I don’t have expensive taste in clothes, food and nights out, so I’m going to relax for a while and Bliss Pidduck can like it or lump it.